My wife and I both decided that pursuing further training and possibly certification in Biblical Counseling would be a good idea. We both had a good deal of counseling training in seminary, but thought that more would definitely be a good idea. And so last Sunday I headed up to Lafayette, Indiana (along with almost 2000 others) for their annual Biblical Counseling Training Conference. What followed was a week of consistent emphasis on the sufficiency and authority of the Word of God in dealing with the problems that people face.
Pastor Steve Viars was not able to be in attendance due to some medical challenges facing his family. However, others stepped in admirably. A few highlights come to mind:
- In the sessions on the Key Elements of Biblical Counseling, the emphasis on evaluating problems biblically was hugely helpful. The Bible does not contain many of the terms that people get diagnosed with today, but it says a lot about the underlying issues. Just because we make up a new term for something does not make the Bible irrevelant to the discussion.
- A great session on Trials and Suffering highlighted the fact that counseling is not just for sin issues. Many people are suffering, not sinning. The Bible has help for them as well.
- Another topic covered was the range of Counseling Philosophies that exist. A great point that was made was simply that every secular system in existence begins with a faulty anthropology. If we start with a faulty anthropology, we will almost always misdiagnose a problem.
- The session on dealing with depression was particularly helpful, especially as it was taught by a medical doctor.
- There were about seven sessions on the family. They dealt with issues such as marriage, sex, biblical roles, and parenting. Great and helpful stuff that was rooted directly in the Word of God.
- There were a few great plenary sessions. Brad Bigney, pastor of Grace Fellowship Church in Florence, KY, nailed it on Monday night in dealing with 1 John 1:5-2:2 and the Main Idea that “A good counselor must first be a good counselee.” On Tuesday, Dr. Charles Ware, president of Crossroads Bible College, delivered a passionate reminder of the challenges that Christians face as they seek to become biblical counselors, and the crucible that a walk with Christ often leads believers through.
In any discussion of Biblical Counseling, it is important that we define what we mean. Biblical Counselors are not crazy fanatics yelling for everyone to get off of their psych-meds (though I would argue that we live in a terribly over medicated society and that meds can often be used to mask an underlying heart issue). We are also not the “oh you have a problem with anger? Memorize a verse and just stop it!” type people either. There are those who do that, but that is not biblical counseling.
Overall, it was a great week. Long and tiring, but refreshing. The Word that I know and love was held up as authoritative over all of life and sufficient for all issues of the heart. I trust that you truly do view the Word as “living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” I know a lot of Christians who need to turn off Dr. Phil and Oprah and turn back to the Word.